The Blog

Did The Obama Administration Violate An Executive Order By Releasing Qais Qazali?

2:05 PM, Dec 31, 2009 • By BILL ROGGIO
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

This is a very sensitive topic because you know the position that the Iraqi government, the U.S. and British governments, and all the governments do not accept the idea of exchanging hostages for prisoners. . . . So we put it in another format, and we told them that if they want to participate in the political process they cannot do so while they are holding hostages. And we mentioned to the American side that they cannot join in the political process and release their hostages while their leaders are behind bars or imprisoned.

According to a June 9, 2009 New York Post article, "secret negotiations have been under way for months" with Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq - also known as the League of Righteousness - for the release of the British hostages. Iraqi lawmakers reportedly told the Post "the kidnappers had agreed to free the hostages in exchange for the phased release of League members, starting with Laith al-Khazali."

Within days of al Khazali's release, British press outlets began reporting that the release of at least one British hostage was imminent. Tragically, on June 21, 2009, Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq sent the dead bodies of two of the five British hostages to the British embassy in Baghdad. Before the terrorist group handed over the two dead Britons, a source close to the group made clear that the release of Laith al Qazali was not enough to gain the release of the five British hostages. This person told the British paper The Times, "[n]one of the original conditions have changed. . . . It has always been the five men in exchange for the prisoners including Qais and this remains the same to this date."

The foregoing events have been reported by numerous outlets in the United States and Europe. If these reports are accurate, they confirm that your administration released a major terrorist detainee in connection with hostage negotiations with a terrorist group. Aside from the fact that a terrorist and war criminal was released without charges, the negotiations surrounding the release suggest a major shift in the United States' approach to hostage negotiations and terrorist demands which, as we have learned, will only lead to more kidnappings, extortion, and hostage release demands.

Due to the very serious nature of this matter, we ask that you answer the following questions to clarify the policy your administration will follow in dealing with terrorist organizations' demands:

(1) Has your administration negotiated directly or indirectly with any terrorist organization for the release of detainees held by the United States government?

(2) Was the release of Laith al Khazali related in any way to obtaining the release of one or more of the British hostages held by Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq, and what is the name of the highest ranking United States official who approved the release?

(3) Prior to approving the release of Laith al Khazali, did your administration evaluate whether a criminal indictment or military commission charges could be brought against him, including for violating the federal war crimes statute? If so, what was done?

(4) While reconciliation has been floated as a basis for al Khazali's release, please state to what extent the leaders of Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq have seriously discussed giving up their efforts and history of attacking United States' and Iraqi interests?

(5) Did your administration make any effort to consult the family members of the five slain servicemen who were killed in the January 2007 Karbala attack before the release of Laith al Khazali? According to a New York Post article, the father of one of the slain soldiers was surprised by the release.

(6) Does your administration adhere to the "no-concessions" policy described in National Security Decision Directive Number 207, including its statement that the United States does not "permit releases of prisoners or agree to other conditions that could serve to encourage additional terrorism[?]"